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British Businesses Implicated in Purchase of Goods Produced by Slave Labour

A damning new article recently published in the Financial Times has revealed that British Businesses are grossly uninformed when it comes to knowing where and how their products are sourced, adopting a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ mentality that leaves them in the dark, securing an ‘ignorance is bliss’ approach rendering it highly likely that many businesses are directly implicated in importing goods and produce manufactured using overseas slave labour.

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The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply unveiled that nearly three-quarters of supply chain professionals confessed to having “zero visibility” whilst a further 11% accepted that this probably indicated that during the manufacture and transportation of goods, slave labour was required at some stage during the process.

David Noble, Chief Executive of the CIPS said that business leaders are “content to remain ignorant of the malpractice that could be operating throughout their supply chains.”

A disturbing disconnect was revealed when polling the results of 3,406 business leaders, supply chain professionals and consumers. Purchasing managers were less likely to say that their chains were transparent when compared to company leaders.

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Not long ago, it was revealed that supermarkets were selling horse meat advertised and presented as beef to the consumer. Unfortunately, it seems that despite public outrage and disgust, not enough is being done to ensure that businesses are accountable for taking the time to understanding what and where they are importing produce from, and the ramifications for customers and the workers potentially exploited during the process.

During the recession and economic crisis, company and business values and morals took a distinct nosedive attempting to cut corners, prioritising a low spend ahead of human rights, enabling corruption to become commonplace. Remote suppliers in emerging markets, who are often severely under regulated, are open to be exploited by first world business.  The risk to reputation is very real and something businesses ought to guard against.

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The International Labour Organisation states that approximately 21 million people across the globe, including young children, are working slaves making this a worldwide, international issue which food businesses must be careful to avoid getting involved with.  The food and beverage industry has been involved in scandal after scandal in recent years, therefore they must begin to start being more transparent.  From the country of origin to the supermarket shelf, consumers need to be aware of how products are farmed, manufactured and shipped to the UK.

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